Whoever is masterminding the Liberal response to the SNC-Lavalin scandal is confusing the anchor and the life jacket. To be clear, the life jacket is the one that keeps you afloat … the anchor is the heavy thing.
The justice committee Liberals — who are obviously not mariners — met Wednesday only to shut the committee down for a week, to stall on allowing Jody Wilson-Raybould back to complete her testimony, giving every indication possible that they weren’t really very interested in hearing from her at all anymore.
There is nothing opposition MPs could have done more effectively to juice up an already highly-charged saga than the five Liberals’ blatant and televised amputation of what a committee named justice ought to be doing. Which is to hear from the central character in this story — free to speak fully and without the restraint of various privileges — the full account of why she left cabinet, and why another senior minister, Jane Philpott, felt conscience-bound to leave in solidarity with her.
The same committee has also killed opposition efforts to call Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, PMO advisers Elder Marques and Mathieu Bouchard, the former chief of staff to Ms. Wilson-Raybould, Jessica Prince, and notably the only figure who really has the whole story, the prime minister himself.
There is something in the Liberals’ behaviour touchingly reminiscent of the classic line from Dr. Strangelove: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”
Committee chairman Anthony Housefather: “Witnesses? You can’t call for witnesses here. This is the justice committee.”
That’s the tactic they’ve decided on. Close it down. Leave the full story untold. Use process to obscure truth. There’s a morbid irony in using control of the justice committee as the instrument to deny the function of the justice committee. If this were the Harper years they’d call it muzzling. The mores change with the tempores, I suppose.
The first response to the charges of pressuring the attorney general on behalf of SNC-Lavalin was clear denial. Mr. Trudeau: “The allegations in the Globe story are false.”
They more or less dropped that one and moved on to a more slippery rationale. Yes, there was pressure, all those meetings, the PMO and Gerald Butts, the finance minister’s aide, the clerk of the Privy Council, JWR’s one-to-one with Mr. Trudeau, but it was good pressure, because, you know, SNC-Lavalin employed so many people, and they had to save 9,000 jobs.
This was tacitly something of an admission, a conditional one. It said: If we did put the heat on, if we did — slightly — overstep our bounds, well, as Mr. Trudeau emphasized at least a hundred times, “we will always fight to protect Canadian jobs.” We’re the Trudeau government. Jobs are what we are. We protect Canadian jobs. We may have acted badly but our hearts were job pure.
This newfound emphasis on jobs was a strange sunrise, puzzling to very many, and a veritable revelation out in certain Western provinces. A social-justice warrior government, cast in the deepest shade of green, touting feminism, diversity, carbon taxes, equity for all, globalist in aspiration — was suddenly a Jobs First government. Now there was a costume change. You’re in the theatre, you’ve watched the first three acts of Hamlet, the curtain opens on Act 4, and it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Enter Puck, with his cover letter and resumé.)
Building pipelines involves jobs. The oilsands involve jobs — tens of thousands of jobs. Northern Gateway involved jobs. The Energy East pipeline involved jobs. Oil companies cancelling projects involved jobs. The flight of headquarters from Calgary involved jobs. The still-stalled Trans Mountain pipeline involves jobs.
The most massive jobs hit in the Canadian economy, involving an entire industry, did not get 1/100 the prime attention that a single company, with a dubious reputation, already sanctioned outside Canada, and under investigation within, received.
Who can seriously believe the “we value jobs line?”
Did they hound and set siege to the National Energy Board with the same ferocity and frequency the attorney general was subjected to for the benefit of SNC-Lavalin?
Was the dark lord of the Privy Council on the phone to the head of the NEB reminding the board that there were massive jobs involved in all these impeded and cancelled projects? Seeking to slacken the regulations, speed up the process, get the approvals out pronto?
Were they strong-arming the B.C. premier to lower his opposition to Trans Mountain? Were they back-dooring the legal system to hold off on nuisance lawsuits from environmentalists because … so many valuable Canadian jobs were at stake?
Were they fighting the octopus green lobby’s relentless campaign against Canadian energy, speaking out in international forums against its propaganda?
The answer to all these questions and a hundred similar ones is No.
A single company, SNC-Lavalin, owned all the machinery and might of the PMO and the prime minister himself. In contrast, an entire national industry with employees across the full spread of the country, was left to languish. Or worse, be entangled in new regulations, staring down Bill C-69, burdened by new and useless so-called carbon taxes, and hearing the prime minister declare, somewhat in exasperation, “we can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow.”
I fear in the light of how employment in the energy sector has been valued that the “jobs are us” line is a bird that will not fly.
Note to Post readers: Two (or more) people may experience this column differently, but diversity is our strength.